|Dear Southminster Family and Friends,
As I shared with my breakout group at the Race Talks Seminar with Donna Maxey on Tuesday night, I have a deep sense that God is doing something in our midst. This past year feels like a year of recalibrating our focus. I sense that a lot of our ministries at Southminster had become more rote than driven by a deep concern to build and sustain relationships across differences. This is nobody’s fault and everybody’s fault at the same time. If we are real with ourselves, we are a church that strives to be connected to other groups but often our organizational culture often demands that we look inward instead of outward. Sometimes we have failed to sustain our connections (except for perhaps 1or 2 people who shoulder the relationships on our behalf). For example, I was recently reminded of Al Contreras and the great work that he did to pave the way for us to connect with the Bilal mosque for over a decade. To this day, I only know of 1 person in our congregation who keeps in contact with Shariar. Remember him?
Another example. I remember a couple of years back, we intended to build a partnership with the Black Maranatha church community in Northeast Portland. They visited us once. Some of us visited them But what came of that? Maybe I am just being nostalgic after almost twelve months of a pandemic (I hope it is not just that), but I have a renewed longing to deepen my (and our) relationships with those who are not in my (our) immediate circle of friends and family and colleagues.
So as we finish our official spiritual theme on reconciliation this month, I would hope that we do not leave reconciliation behind but we take it wherever we may go. I hope that building bridges across the religious and racial divides (and sustaining those bridges better than we have done in the past) becomes a central component of who we are––now and always. Let me share a part of an email response I received this past week from Imam Mousin (ie. Pastor of the Islamic Community of Portland, the mosque across the street from Southminster),
Dear brother Don,
It is so good to hear from you and knowing you are doing well, and our sisters and brothers at Southminster. Believe me, you were on my mind a few days ago. I was planning to drop you an email just to say hello, then the nice thing that I heard from you. Thank you for checking on us. We still have very limited activities. I come to the Center every Friday to make a sermon and broadcast it on FB of our Center to our Community. I am trying to maintain a sense of connection between the Center and the Community. Few people come on Friday and join me for the midday Friday service. We are doing some work inside the Center. Some painting and some improvements, like replacing the carpet. It really is nice to hear from you.
Well, you are right. It is such a relief to have a new Administration and some rational people in DC. I hope they do a good job in having good control over the pandemic and make the vaccine available for most people soon.
We all at ICP are looking forward to going back to the good old time where we can meet you, and be able to visit with you. I forwarded your email to our Board to share with them your thoughts about Abraham’s tent and deepening our partnership.”
Please say hello to all our friends at the Congregation and tell them we all hope to see them soon, God willing, by the Summer or the Fall.
Best regards and wishes,
I look forward to seeing you in worship on Sunday – we will continue to examine what it takes to become “Bridge Builders” (and sustain those bridges) as we together view, respond and discuss Amanda Gorman’s poem entitled: The Hill We Climb.
Peace and Grace,